Learned Hand’s Dream

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal published my review of Reason and Imagination, a collection of Judge Learned Hand’s correspondence.

Had I unlimited space, I would have mentioned Learned Hand’s dream of a first day in Heaven, as recounted in Gerald Gunther’s biography of Hand:

[H]e would say that in the morning there would be a baseball game, with the score 4-1 in favor of the opposing team in the bottom of the ninth. Hand’s team then loads the bases, and it is Hand’s turn at bat; he promptly hits a home run, clearing the bases and winning the game. In the afternoon, there is a football game between the evenly matched teams, tied in a scoreless match. With a minute left to play, Hand catches a punt, weaves his way down the sidelines, and scores the winning touchdown. The highlight of the day is an evening banquet, with civilization’s greatest minds – Socrates, Descartes, Benjamin Franklin, and Voltaire – among the guests. The designated speaker for the evening is Voltaire. After a few words from him, the audience shouts, “Shut up Voltaire, and sit down. WE WANT HAND!”

Hand’s most famous former clerk, Ronald Dworkin, has recounted this story many times — see, for example, his 2010 law review article, “Justice for Hedgehogs.” But I heard this story from Dworkin firsthand: in 2000 or 2001, he addressed the University of Iowa Law School, and I ventured all the way from the undergraduate campus to hear it in person. It was probably my first exposure to either Dworkin or Hand.